Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors game preview

Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

The Rockets welcome Kyle Lowry back to Houston as the Rockets look to build upon their fantastic win over the New York Knicks last week.

The Rockets finally get more rest than their opponents tonight. The Raptors fell in double overtime to Spurs on Sunday, while the Rockets haven't played since the curb-stomping of the Knicks at the Yote on Friday.

But the Raptors are getting screwed in far worse ways than the schedule. Last week in a one-point loss to the Bobcats, Andrea Bargnani was fouled and should have gotten free throws. Even the NBA's Official site declared it a mistake.

Two nights later they lost in Detroit by one and then fell to the Spurs in two overtimes. Rockets fans understand gut punches better than most, but what the Raptors are going through is pretty rough.

Obviously, the Rockets are going through their own issues right now with the loss of Kevin McHale's daughter. I'm interested to see how the team plays tonight with that going on, and I mean that in a non-callous way of course.

Something else to keep in mind if you don't follow Jason Friedman or Jonathan Feigen on twitter (seriously, what's wrong with you?) is that the Rockets will be travelling to Minnesota for Sasha McHale's funeral Wednesday morning. It's going to be very easy for the team to be distracted tonight. It's totally understandable, too, and it's an awesome move by the team.

I think the Raptors will be playing like a wounded animal, striking at any chance they can get. I think the Rockets might start slowly but turn the game into a grinder by the third quarter.

Things to watch for:

Bench play

Raptors defending the Beard

Jason Friedman flirting with Holly MacKenzie on Twitter

Emotions from both teams

Tip off is at 7pm CST.

Matchups:

Point Guard: Jeremy Lin vs. Kyle Lowry

Lowry may get a warm welcome from the Houston crowd, but I doubt he gets the video treatment like Shane Battier did. Ignoring the fact that Battier was here longer, Battier was traded by the franchise to get younger and to pick up a draft pick. Lowry was traded at least partially (or maybe mostly) because he had beef with Kevin McHale, stating that he couldn't coexist with his former coach.

I'll play devil's advocate for Lowry here like I did last year. Lowry waited his turn. There were a lot of people who wanted him starting over Aaron Brooks since Brooks' game was more suited to the "spark plug off the bench" role and Lowry's was more of the "slow it down and run the offense" type. When Brooks got hurt, Lowry came in and played well.

Here's where Lowry detractors will say: the same thing happened with both Brooks and Lowry. When they came back from injury, their backup was playing really well and the coach (Adelman then McHale) didn't give them their job back immediately. Not to undermine the job Goran Dragic did last year off the bench for the Rockets and becoming an above average starter, but Lowry needed to get that job back to integrate himself into the lineup. Eventually, McHale's decision to restrict Lowry's minutes may have cost the team a shot at the playoffs.

Either way, this is an interesting matchup. I'm going with Lowry not because of Lin's recent struggles, but because Kyle Lowry loves playing against former teams and would consistently go bananas against the Grizzlies. I'm thinking 25-12-7-4. Yeah, it's gonna be bad.

Advantage: Raptors

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Jose Calderon

So Calderon really comes off the bench, but the Raptors do this thing where Dominic McGuire starts at the 3, then goes out, Calderon slides to the 1 while Lowry shifts to the 2 and DeRozan goes to the 3. It's a funky system, but the Raptors have smalls and bigs without much in between.

Calderon is dangerous, which is my dad's favorite word for players who scare him. However, Calderon's shooting has always been suspect. His free throw shooting and decision making are not.

How the Raptors defend Harden IS the key to this game.

Harden's advice to Rockets fans about Lowry:

Detective James Carter: [to Lee] Lee, he might be your brother but turn him into your sister.

Also, this ESPN video of our Rush Hour backcourt is hilarious.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. DeMar DeRozan

Again, McGuire starts here but we refuse to kid ourselves at TDS.

DeRozan shoots a ton, gets to the line, and is in that 2009 draft class that Daryl Morey loves.

With the way Kid Emo is playing, this is even. Let's see if he keeps it up.

Advantage: Even

Power Forward: Patrick Patterson vs. Andrea Bargnani

Patterson has been playing much better as of late. Bargs just had a terrible game.

This one goes to us too, but it could go either way.

Advantage: Rockets

Center: Omer Asik vs. Jonas Valanciunas

This will be my first real look at JV (I'm not going to keep typing that name. Look at it!). The early reviews are good, but there's some work to be done. Here's hoping Asik makes him look like a rookie.

Advantage: Rockets

Bench/Rotation Players

Rockets: Toney Douglas, Daequan Cook, Marcus Morris, Greg Smith; Delfino is probably out

Raptors: Dominic McGuire, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Terrence Ross

Advantage: Rockets? Raptors? Could go either way

Prediction: Rockets should win it, but I have a bad feeling about this one. Throw it away 98-91.

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